The other day while I was on my phone, I decided to listen to "Right By You" by Justin Nozuka. Suddenly, I was overtaken by an incredibly powerful sense of nostalgia to which I couldn't assign a place or time. It started to come in bits and pieces--I can smell my body wash very strongly, but it's early morning (I know because I feel exhausted). Odd; I usually shower at night. Next comes the swirl of cold air conditioning around me; it must be summer. Then it hits me. I'm sitting in the lobby of Trojan Hall, waiting for the counselors to walk us to breakfast on some day of GRAMMY camp. I listened to that song almost every morning as I sat, one of the first ones downstairs, waiting to go eat.
I don't know about you guys, but I have really strong sense memories with music. When I hear "The Only Exception" by Paramore, I'm reminded of my first few weeks of seventh grade; I can feel the scratchy denim of my new jeans and the slick metal of braces on my teeth. When I hear "Check Yes, Juliet" by We the Kings, I remember freshman year, when I went to Chicago for a choir trip and listened to that song on repeat as I fell asleep. "No One's Gonna Love You" by Band of Horses, "Empire" by Jukebox the Ghost, and the entirety of the Imagine Dragons album "Night Visions" takes me back to sophomore year; I can feel the weightiness of Jane Eyre in my hands, the nervousness I felt as I auditioned for Scene Monkeys for the first time, the sense of accomplishment as I got my learner's permit. And aside from those tangible things--the physical sensations and sights--there's that intangible thing. You know what I mean? Every year just has a feeling. Last year I bought the same brand and scent of deodorant I'd used in ninth grade without realizing it; when I put it on, I nearly fell over, inundated by that ineffable "it" that accompanied everything about Jensen McRae, age 14.
Sometimes it's a good thing. When I hear "Right By You," I smile to myself at the wonderful memories I created last summer. Nonetheless, certain songs and smells bring back not-so-good memories. Everyone has that feeling. That sappy love song reminds you of the one that got away; some random adult contemporary song on the radio just so happened to be playing when you got into a bad car accident; you had the most awkward first slow dance in the world to an otherwise innocuous Top 40 tune (Today Was a Fairytale by Taylor Swift, I'm looking at you.)
I guess that sucks, that sometimes a song, or the smell of rain, or anything else can be ruined for you. But it's also pretty great that those things can preserve something you never wanted to forget. Sure, maybe certain songs and albums and perfumes are on my "do not touch" list, but there are way more that I listen to and, instead of drowning, I just swim for a while. So you know that album you can't listen to without thinking about your ex? Just put it on. Play it all the way through. And remember why you loved it so much in the first place. No one deserves to steal your songs.